Katrina survivor tells story after latest storm

Hurricane Katrina survivor Dajon Perique, a senior in the College of Education, recalls the devastation her family experienced. Photo by Erin Caughey/[email protected]

From Aug. 27 to Sept. 1, the U.S. watched with apprehension as Hurricane Irene made its way toward the East Coast. For one Marquette student, the latest hurricane brought back waves of painful memories.

Dajon Perique, a senior in the College of Education, is a New Orleans native who evacuated her hometown on Aug. 28, 2005, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit.

“We were going to go to Arkansas,” Perique said. “But because of traffic we stopped in Shreveport and lived in a shelter at (Louisiana State University)-Shreveport. We ate and slept in the same place with hundreds of people.”

Perique evacuated with 17 family members and lived in the LSU shelter for two weeks before being taken in by a local church. After her family lived in the church for a week, an uncle picked them up and brought them to Milwaukee.

Upon arriving, Perique said one thing that stood out was Wisconsin’s benevolence.

“Wisconsin was willing to assist,” Perique said. “Wisconsin helped us more than FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Everyone who evacuated and moved to Wisconsin was assisted immediately.”

Perique said the media depiction of the tragedy was accurate for the most part, but that some parts were underreported.

“The devastation was what it was,” she said. “A lot of people died, were left stranded, people were just left there. I don’t think they covered the amount of bodies that there were.”

In comparing the media coverage of Katrina and Irene, Perique said she’s happy with the sense of urgency that was communicated leading up to the more recent hurricane.

“They did a good job of making people have urgency about the situation,” she said. “A lot of people, especially living in Louisiana, don’t really take it seriously.”

New York native Sterling Hardaway, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said that sense of urgency was present in New York during Irene.

Hardaway said there were people in New York who didn’t take the warnings seriously at first but were compelled to do so.

Post-Katrina, Perique described her family as heartbroken, something the news cannot really communicate.

“I tell people it’s like having a hole in your heart … I don’t think the media let people understand how many people were heartbroken from being uplifted from their homes,” she said. “People honestly can’t show you that. We were heartbroken more than anything.”

Norman Sullivan, a professor of anthropology at Marquette, said being uprooted from home can affect a person’s identity and can even stop development.

“(There can be) significant effects on our identity, because it’s a part of who we are,” Sullivan said. “If it’s traumatic, it can make further development difficult.”

However, Perique holds fast to her New Orleans identity and returns to the city three times a year, mainly for holidays and family emergencies. She also enjoys cooking hometown specialties.

“All of my friends like my potato salad, but I like to cook red beans and rice,” Perique said.